Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Loose leash walking

Dozer and Fel were never "loose leash" walkers.

Fel, in fact, was such an incorrigible puller that one of our area's top trainers, confident only minutes before that he could stop her pulling immediately, muttered "She's a tough case, eh" as she yanked him along, oblivious to his various tactics. It was something of an understatement. He gave up on her before too long, and so did I; she wore a Gentle Leader head harness from then on, and that stopped the pulling, for the most part. Once she got old and sick, the walks got a lot easier.

Dozer is not a well-trained loose leash walker. He hates walking, so it's more of a cowed slink; the leash is loose because he doesn't want to go very fast. Show him something interesting, and he darts ahead. He also surges forward when a car passes, as if he's trying to keep up with it, or maybe hitch a ride back home without me.

Star may be the redeeming dog here. We have been relentlessly training loose leash walking since day 2 (I let her do what she wanted on day 1, just to see). For a while, I doubted my ability to train loose leash, considering my poor track record. Sure, I can teach a dog to put toys in a toy box and close cabinet doors, but walking? But Star is learning--fast. This is the serious "heel," too, not the "as long as you're somewhere nearby" type of loose leash. It's kind of neat.

I'm using the "circle" technique to train. Basically, as soon as the dog gets too far ahead, out of the range you specify, you turn around and walk the other way. The dog goes "what the?" and turns and follows, and you reward as soon as the dog reaches the "heel" position. Then you circle back around and continue on with your walk. The first several times, the reward is probably delivered as the dog runs past to pull ahead (at which point you turn around again), but after a while, the dog realizes the reward comes from staying beside the walker's leg. Furthermore, the circling around causes the dog to focus on the walker (to avoid collision at the very least).

Then it's just a matter of constant reward for the "heel" position, slowly delivering the treats at a less-frequent interval as the dog "gets it," and at a more frequent interval if a challenging/distracting situation arises, such as barking dogs or people walking by. There's no punishment involved, unless you consider it punishment to walk in circles (I sure do--I get dizzy after a while!).


shirley said...

congratulations on star! she makes one perfect home accessory with that coat color ;)

the circle technique was the only loose leash training that was working for my pit girl. but then i slacked and instead of loose leash walking, i ended up with something else; she pulls ahead, i turn around, she follows me back until she's at heel for 2 seconds before she turns herself back around. oops. guess i'm going to have to get less lazy and more dizzy...

and again, congrats!!!! she's gorgeous and very sweet looking and damn them for pretending to spay her. wtf?

Dennis the Vizsla said...

The circle walk is how my wife tries to teach our guys to leave the leash loose while walking. I don't think Tucker is ever going to learn it though ...

Sarah, Jackson and Patrick said...

Good job! It sounds like star is working out great. Patrick is a great heeling dog, Jack is an "in the vicinity" dog :P

Burning Moon said...

Oh my goodness, the circle technique does NOT work on Noelle. I end up just spinning in circles instead of walking. After about 5 or 10 minutes I can get her to loose leash walk, or at least not be pulling, but can't seem to get her to walk beside or behind me. Thankfully in all other areas she knows I'm the pack leader. We've got enough problems with her without adding that one too.

happypitbull said...


Sorry, but I decided to delete our back-and-forth. It wasn't helping anyone.

This is not a forum, it's a personal blog. My blog. This is where I get to be biased.

This is not a place to advertise your services. You may not wander onto my blog and say "Hey everybody, I'm a trainer, and if you come to my website, I can help you." That's a sales pitch. Worse, you're just some random guy on the Internet. I don't want to be even the tiniest bit responsible for steering people to some "trainer" I don't know squat about (and who uses techniques I don't agree with). I can't edit your comments to remove your website or other identifying information, so the only other choice is to delete. Sorry.

And since you haven't taken the time to really read through any of my educational materials and apparently have no clue who I am or what I do, I don't think it's in your best interest to denigrate me regarding stereotypes, training, responsible dog ownership, and dog rescue.

Best of luck to you in your endeavors. I hope you will take some time to think about the benefits of positive reinforcement training, the drawbacks of pinch collars and punishment, and the consequences of insulting somebody on their own blog. :)